Learning jazz basics

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Learning Jazz basics part 1: The most important chord when learning jazz is ….

The Dominant 7 chord!

This isn’t just the heart of learning jazz basics but is used in most western music.

This chord is built on the 5th note of a major or minor scale.

Rather than keeping you guessing, I’ll name the chord now: the dominant 7!

For example, note 5 of the G major scale is D, so the chord of D dominant 7 is built from the note D.

Identifying note 5.


A dominant 7 chord has 4 notes and is made up of a major triad plus a minor 3rd.

An example is C + E + G + B♭. The first three notes make up the C major triad and B♭ is a minor 3rd (or 3 half steps) above the G.

Another way to construct this chord is to play the C major scale and then flatten the 7.

But, more importantly, the note that it is built on (the root) is note 5 of the major, or minor scale. Here is the scale of F major.

Note 5 in the key of F major.

The interval 5 – 1, in this example C moving up to F, is crucial to your understanding of not only playing jazz piano. It is the foundation of most western music.

The interval of note 5 moving up to note 1 (the same note as 8) is called a perfect 5th interval. 

The interval of note 5 moving down to note 1 is called a perfect 5th interval.

Now see how this scale looks when we start this F major scale on note 5. This is known as the Mixolydian mode.

Learning jazz basics

We can now build our C dominant 7 chord from 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 of this scale.

When learning jazz basics identify dominant 7 chords. here is C7.

Although the full name of this chord is C dominant 7, it is often just referred to as C7.

So now it’s your turn to build some dominant 7 chords. Remember …

Build a major triad and then add a minor third above it.


Play the major scale, play 1, 3 and 5 but then flatten the 7


Play 1, 3, 5 and 7 of the Mixolydian mode.

In the next blog I will show you why this chord is not only essential to your understanding of jazz basics but will also improve your jazz solos.

In the meantime, discover dominant 7 chords for yourself.

Here’s just one more:

Bb dominant 7 = Bb + D + F + Ab.

Part 2 of learning jazz basics will follow soon.

In the meantime, why not enrol on my course (if you haven’t already).

For more on jazz basics learn more about my course here.

Start the course here.

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